Last year I drenched freshly picked and just barely steamed ears of silver queen corn in fragrant unsalted French butter. This year, a little more awareness and a lot more understanding of basic nutritional needs has changed my eating habits.
So with the first ears of local sweet white corn this season comes the no-salt, low-cholesterol challenge: What do you do with a great ear of corn in a world without salt and butter?
A lot, I discovered. There are many simple ways to enhance corn on the cob that leave it just as luscious and perhaps even more exciting than the old classic butter-and-salt slathering.
First, experiment with brushing the steaming hot ears of corn with different oils. Safflower seems a waste, unnecessary. However, sesame oil, with its deep color and rich fragrant flavor, brushed very lightly onto the corn with a pastry brush just before serving, is toasty and delicious with the sweet corn, but only when used sparingly. A little good quality sesame oil goes a long way.
The big, heavy, darkly colored virgin and extra-virgin olive oils, even when used sparingly, seemed oppressive for a simple ear of corn, but some of the less expensive, lightly olive-flavored oils were excellent when brushed onto the hot corn. Peanut oil reminded me too much of bad deep-fried foods, so I leave that option to others with warmer feelings for peanut oil.
Once the corn had been dressed with oil, particularly with the light olive oil, I experimented with seasonings that would further enhance the flavor. The three I like best are a light sprinkling of curry powder over the olive oil (though safflower might be useable here), a very light dusting of chili powder over either the olive oil or the sesame oil, and a light sprinkling of freshly ground black pepper over any of the oils suggested.
A brushing with a standard commercial soy sauce was interesting, but a dark (sometimes called "light") soy sauce or a mushroom soy sauce added a more exciting oriental dimension to the corn. However, it did throw my low-sodium needs right over my left shoulder.
I have also used freshly squeezed lemon and lime juice, just a few drops, with freshly ground black pepper quite successfully; and either of the juices is great on steamed corn that has been sprinkled very gently with extra finely grated tangerine zest and a hint of hot madras or other good quality curry powder.
That's an earful of new ideas, and a start on experimentation of your own.